I attended a Danish crime fiction event on Monday evening as part of the Manchester Literature Festival along with Karen Meek from Eurocrime. Karen has given the evening an excellent write-up on her website and it was good to see that, judging by the turnout, the Scandinavian crime fiction wave is still going strong. In advance of the event, I read one of the featured authors’ books. Three Dog Night by Elsebeth Egholm is a solid read with an interesting premise. It was also the book that author spoke about at length and once more I was struck by how interesting it is to hear of how a novel came into being.
Ex-convict Peter Bautrup moves to a remote rural community following his release from prison. His nearest neighbour is Felix, a woman bearing the scars of a past accident. When they both stumble on the body of Ramses, a man Peter knew in prison, their fragile peace is shattered. The discovery of a young girl’s body in the town’s harbour doesn’t appear, at first, to be connected to the convict’s death but the remote community is harbouring old secrets that are finally resurfacing.
Three Dog Night has a great sense of place that communicates itself to the reader from the first page. A frosty New Year’s Eve provides the backdrop to the introduction of the main protagonists and conveys to the reader the isolation of the community. Egholm has created an excellent cast of characters who have interesting back stories. Peter, in particular, struggles to disentangle himself from his former life. There is a strong emphasis on sickness, in terms of both physical and mental exhaustion. While this adds to the sense of a community fraying at the edges it can occasionally make it difficult to distinguish the individual characters. However, I was impressed by the well constructed plot with a convincing ending which I find is sometimes a weakness with Scandinavian crime fiction.
Thanks to Headline for my review copy. The translation was by Charlotte Barslund and Don Bartlett.